Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fake iPhone sold on eBay

With the Indian online trade booming, many retailers are becoming extremely cautious about their customers and avoid negative sentiments. Any wrongdoing would automatically undo the tremendous amount of effort that was spent in building trust and faith in the minds of the customer. For my friends father, that is exactly what happened when he decided to purchase a new phone.


A friend of mine approached me for help after her father wished to purchase an iPhone 4 from eBay after spotting a cheap deal on the website. Not very well-versed with doing online transactions, they approached me for help. I promptly conducted the booking using my eBay credentials and the phone reached him, as promised.

My friends father was unable to get the phone to start and decided to approach an Apple service center for help. The service center identified the unit to be a fake, China-made model and advised him to return it. He spoke the seller who delivered him the phone and the seller offered a replacement, which too faced the same issue as the previous one. At this point, he decided to take up the case with eBay and once again asked me to intervene and try to secure a refund. At this point, I must highlight the main concern and the main reason for the article. The issue is not so much about a fake iPhone being sold but the lack of support from eBay to rectify the issue. The seller did his very best to resolve the problem but with eBay not helping him, he could not give a refund either (eBay keeps a small commission for themselves before passing the money to sellers).

The eBay customer service is probably the worst ever and it seems more of 'how customers can not reach you for a resolution' rather than being more friendly to customers. Here are the few solutions that I have tried constantly:

1. eBay Guarantee: I first went on their eBay Guarantee section where there is an option of raising a claim for a full refund in case of any problems. The website asked me for my PaisaPay ID and after inputting the correct ID numerous times, it kept showing as 'record not found'. This is after having a confirmation email and a purchase confirmation on my eBay account.

2. Call Centre: The next step was to call them on their helpline number. Anybody who manages to get through must have a lot of patience to be able to do so. For over a week I must have tried at least 6-7 times and each time I have received a message saying 'We are experiencing higher than usual traffic and wait times would be long.' And by long, they mean over 20-30 minutes. As someone who is working in office and has got many other things to do, they cannot possibly expect a customer to be on hold for this long simply to get through.

3. Online Chat: This option is as bad as the call centre or maybe worse. If you thought that a 20 minute waiting is far too long, how does a 2 hour+ waiting on their online chat system sound? More than 2 hours just to be able to chat with someone? And never go by their 'promised' timelines, they most likely end up being 3 times longer than promised.

4. Email: After everything failing, I decided to email them the entire problem. As of today, it has been over 7 days since the email was sent and I am yet to wait for a response.

Now, eBay has a policy which says that within 30 days of purchase they will solve any problems, after which it is up to the seller and the buyer to resolve the problem. Fair enough, but how does one even send a claim to eBay if they are so unreachable? The seller showed me another method of raising a claim, one that I wasn't aware of. On trying this procedure I was told that the 30 days has lapsed and I must contact customer care (The product was delivered on 26th Sept and hence the last day of resolving was 25th Oct). The seller, at this point, offered to intervene and call eBay on my behalf and rope me in on a conference call. After patiently being on hold for more than 30 mins, he managed to breach the impregnable wall and get in touch with an executive. The executive hears both our sides of the story, takes down all the information and tells us that 'she is not authorised to deal with complains whilst on a conference call and the buyer must call me back individually'. But that is exactly what I have been trying to do for the past so many days! She then tells us that since 30 days have passed there is little that she can do to resolve the complain. I stood my ground citing that I had dropped in an email within the 30 days and did not receive an answer. She put me on hold 'to check with superiors' and promptly disconnected the call. Disconnected-the-call!

Why must it be so hard or difficult for a customer to simply get in touch with a brand and voice a complain, why must eBay be so difficult and hard to approach? Why did I suddenly feel I was a part of a corrupt bureaucratic process where there is a lot of beating around the bush and no real resolution. This post is not in complain of the fake phone that was sent but more for eBay not being there to help. The seller took a lot of effort in ensuring that I get my claim resolved, perhaps he had vested interests but that is not my concern. It was good to see that he did not turn his back and not bother, much like what most sellers would do.

With no resolution in sight, I have asked the seller to close the matter by refunding me the money he has received from eBay sans the commission that they have cut. This is to ensure that he does not lose his money and I get back at least a majority of it. Let's hope that this article might make eBay realise a major flaw in their system.

Issue Summary:
1. Fake iPhone sent, seller co-operates and offers replacement but they all turn out to be fake.
2. Various ways of contacting eBay was attempted but none of them yielded any results.

eBay badly needs to make their customer service more approachable and have such issues resolved in a more seamless rather than complicated manner. With Indian customers, they need that assurance and safety and such issues only go one step ahead in tarnishing it.